Sustainability is a particularly effective way of increasing a company’s change and innovation capability –and therefore, it is one of the fastest current entry points into driving a company’s success!That is not to say, however, that sustainability is the magic bullet that mindlessly helps us boost a company from stagnation to success or from success to mega-success.
Ultimately, sustainability affects your company on many, if not all levels. The crux is: If you don’t know exactly how, you cannot make full use of its benefits.
How Does Sustainability Impact Your Organization?
Operations, Production Cycles, Service and Product Management: Obviously your operations and production cycles, packaging etc. should be driven to a goal of “Zero-Waste”. Getting there is the part that intersects with all other organizational efforts.
Culture/Mindset/Behavior: Continuously employing a “Zero-Waste” strategy, will drive your mindset toward pragmatic solutions. From there, your organizational culture and behavior will determine how successful your business endeavors will be. A company that wants to max their sustainability benefits, will insure a culture of innovation. In short that means, a healthy balance between experimentation, creativity, deep know-how, room for mistakes and consistent quality-ensuring feedback loops baked into your mindset and people strategies.
Leadership: Leaders need to be empowered to lead in the innovation-fostering ways. Models such as transformational, agile, or collaborative leadership will support your strategic sustainability and innovation goals.
Marketing/Branding: The marketing and branding of your sustainability efforts need to come from a place of integrity to be perceived as authentic in a highly sensitive market and social-media era. Convincing with measurable results that you have already achieved is better than empty promises for the future.
Retention/Talent Development: Today’s talent wants to work purposefully. A comfortable paycheck will not suffice any longer. Your sustainability efforts can provide such purpose, which will automatically increase your engagement and productivity levels.
Organization Design/Structure/Workflows: Sustainability ultimately means innovation. As structure drives behavior, innovation needs to be supported by the right organization design. What is right? An organization design that is nimble, growth-ready, adaptable and one that insures a seamless information flow.
Now, what has a CEO got to do with all of this?
As sustainability deeply impacts your company on all levels, driving it strategically and mindfully on all levels, is crucial. It is the role of a CEO and top management to ensure that your sustainability efforts are practiced in a way that they can fall on fruitful ground for your entire organization.
- Think of your sustainability efforts as a large-scale organizational change process. If you do, you will automatically understand that a) it has to be planned, and b) it can have varying levels of success depending on how well you conduct it.
- Create a sense of urgency, coalitions, and a multi-leveled focus: Peter Senge once stated: “Change is not a solitary job” To turn sustainability into a boost for your entire company, you also need to rally your entire company behind it and ensure that you move forward jointly.
- Understand that your sustainability effort is a journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither is a company’s strategic growth and innovation. Acknowledging that this sustainability is not the quick fix but much rather a guarantor for authentic and, yes, sustainable success, can help with expectation setting, focus, and determination.
- Create an adaptive input/output strategy for the long haul. Whoever wants to leverage benefits of a large-scale organizational change, such as sustainability, needs to know what to expect and what they can get out of it in each and every phase of the process. Taking considerable reflection time for this exercise, will reveal more and more connecting factors between sustainability and your company’s long-term success. It will simultaneously prepare you for understanding that the possible “low-energy” phases are just feedback, not failure.
- Monitor your results on all organizational levels and holistically. What gets measured, gets changed. If you monitor your progress, benefits and setbacks in the individual areas of your organization as well as at scale, you will be able to fine-tune your metrics for your overall success.
When looking at sustainability from a perspective of large-scale organizational change, the role of the CEO and top management becomes obvious. With that said, should you manage to increase the intrapreneurial spirit with a holistic sustainability strategy, you will have gained advanced leadership across the entire organization. From there, you can do sustainability how it is done best: TOGETHER!